Expressive Arts Therapy: A New Approach To Employee Well-being



A few months into the onset of the pandemic in 2020, Mind Share Partners conducted a study of global employees and found that the mental health of almost 42% of respondents had declined. We have been through more phases of the outbreak since then and it can be assumed that the impact of the lockdowns coupled with anxiety about ‘what now’ must have triggered more wellbeing issues. A few organizations had already started inculcating frameworks for employees’ holistic wellness as part of their policies and practices. But with work from home, everything had to be re-calibrated including these policies. With a majority of the workforce going through a forlorn identity crisis as remote working continues, expressive arts therapy seems to have encouraged organizations to foster employee wellbeing by finding a creative direction. From music, art, and dance therapy, creative self-expression has enabled people to sustain momentum to find purpose in what one does and be better at it.


Paint the culture of employee wellbeing


“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary”, said Pablo Picasso. Distress in employees about an uncertain future has grown due to the pandemic. And ways to express it are restricted. Painting, drawing, sketching, doodling are expressive art forms that allow one to manifest thoughts and feelings on a canvas. They help relieve stress, according to Sara Binger, a wellbeing specialist. Apply this to a work environment in guided expertise of an art therapist, and companies can give team culture a boost from group activities that focus on the cohesive expression of one’s personality. It can even lead to enhanced team bonding and understanding.


Finetune employee wellbeing to build resilience


Music therapy is not new or uncommon. Every culture on earth includes some form of music, whether it’s for entertainment, some sort of religious ritual, or a means of non-verbal, yet highly emotional communication. A similar principle applies to our workplaces. With the pandemic, employees are spending most of their time managing the daily details of ordinary existence, with an impending sense to reconnect with themselves, and break away from employee fatigue. Music, as a form of expressive art therapy, facilitates this transition. It is a multifaceted activity using both physical and brain activity to express emotion and communicate meaning. Music engages the brain at multiple levels and as such helps with cerebral plasticity. When employed well, organizations can leverage the power of music through expressive arts therapy to build the resilience of teams by enhancing self-awareness and patience.


Dance, movement & flexibility for employee wellbeing


There is something innately human in the urge to express oneself through rhythmic movements. Dance, in general, is enjoyable, uplifting, and engaging. It provides complete awareness of the body – and as such enhances the sensitivity of a person. Across the globe, dance is considered to be a trait-d’union between the complex science of yoga and the simple mind, partly instinctive and partly a product of human ingenuity. Companies can build on movement therapy to help employees feel relaxed, calmer, and attentive – in sync with their aesthetic physical environment. It is a form of expressive arts therapy that can not only help treat some physical conditions and psychological issues but also connect with one’s inner self fantastically.


People are witnessing many wellness issues through a life crisis like the pandemic that can cause significant emotional, financial, emotional, and physical trauma. Be it facing the death of a loved one, loss of job, or restriction of movement and socialization, a sense of uncertainty has taken over lives. However, this has also presented an opportunity for companies to reconnect with their people on a deeper level, take interest in their hobbies and create an environment that fosters holistic wellness. This has the potential to balance cognitive and emotional wellbeing, across age groups.


Expressive arts therapy can ensure a certain discipline, joy, and good health in one and all if imparted with technical expertise. It can enable people to be their authentic selves and that can be the greatest competitive advantage for any organization.